Move over e-mail, social networks are taking over

Study: Social networks more popular than e-mail as middle agers flock to Facebook

Move over e-mail. Social networks have just knocked you down a peg or two.

Used by two-thirds of all worldwide online users, social networks and blogs have become the fourth most popular online products, according to a report released yesterday by Nielsen Online (download PDF). The report lists e-mail as No. 5 on the list of users' favorite online tools. Search tools, portals and PC software topped the list.

"Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience," said John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online, in a statement. "While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption... show[s] no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large."

Of the social networking sites out there, Twitter and Facebook seem to have the lion's share of the mind share these days. And Facebook has the lion's share of the market share, as well. In January, online researcher comScore Inc. reported that Facebook, once thought of as the up-and-coming social network, had overshadowed rival MySpace, with nearly 222 million unique visitors in December compared to 125 million for MySpace.

To back up comScore's numbers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted in a January blog post that the social networking site had hit a big milestone -- 150 million active users, nearly half of whom use the network daily.

According to the Nielsen report, in all the markets that the company tracks, Facebook is visited monthly by three of every 10 people online.

The report also noted that for every 11 minutes that people spend online, one is devoted to a social networking site. And social networks aren't just for the teenage set anymore. Nielsen showed that the largest increase in users came from the 35-to-40-year-old age group.

"Social networking isn't just growing rapidly, it's evolving -- both in terms of a broader audience and compelling new functionality," said the Nielsen study's author, Alex Burmaster, in a statement.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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